I am considering finding an elder care center for a loved one with Alzheimer's. What should I look for when considering a provider?
Answer From Jonathan Graff-Radford, M.D.
Elder care (adult care) can provide an opportunity for your loved one with Alzheimer's to receive assistance and therapeutic activities in a group setting.
Being a full-time caregiver can be tiring and time-consuming. Elder care can provide you with a temporary break to relax, to get errands done or to complete housework. Also, elder care may be an option for your loved one if you work full time during the day.
In the U.S. you can locate elder care services available in your area by using the Department of Health and Human Services' Eldercare Locator website. This website provides contact information for your state or local area agency on aging (AAA). The AAA will connect you with someone who will help guide you to specific elder care service providers.
Determine your needs
When considering elder care providers, evaluate the services your loved one may need, including:
- Behavior management, such as needing to be watched so that he or she doesn't wander off
- Activities, such as art, music, recreation or support groups
- Physical, occupational or speech therapy
- Medical care
- Medication management
- Meals and nutrition
- Personal care, such as bathing and eating
- Special needs, such as needing wheelchair access
If you're choosing among more than one provider, some additional considerations are:
- Location. How convenient is it?
- Hours. What are drop-off and pickup times? Does your loved one need to attend a minimum number of hours or days a week? Does the provider need notice if your loved one will not be attending one day?
- Costs. Often, costs are out-of-pocket, but some long-term care insurance plans may cover this type of care. Some providers offer options, such as allowing you to pay a certain amount depending on your income. Ask your provider about all fees involved in elder care. Costs may vary depending on the services available and the provider's location.
- Services and programs. What services and programs are offered?
- Group activities. Are people with Alzheimer's in a separate group from other people or are they included in group activities?
- Your loved one's needs. How does the provider determine your loved one's needs?
- Staff. Is the staff trained in working with people with Alzheimer's disease? What health care professionals are on staff? How does the provider screen staff? What are the provider's staffing ratios?
- Safety. How does this provider ensure the safety of every person?
- Emergencies. How does this provider deal with emergency situations?
- Transportation. Does the provider have transportation available for people who may need it?
Ensuring quality care
Entrusting your loved one to someone else's care can be difficult. When you're choosing a center, here are some suggestions to consider to ensure that your loved one will get quality care:
- Ask for references. Ask other caregivers about their experiences. Ask your physician for recommendations of providers that other patients have endorsed. Ask for references and talk to a few people who have used the provider.
- Do some research. Ask the AAA representative or a local senior center whether they have any specific information on the facility you're considering.
- Ask questions. On a first visit to a potential facility, walk through and ask several questions, including questions about available services, the center's certification and licenses, and staff training. The National Adult Day Services Association has a site-visit question checklist you can print and take with you.
- Try it out. When you think you have decided on a center, try it out. Be aware that it may take some time for your loved one to feel comfortable in the new surroundings.
Jonathan Graff-Radford, M.D.
Sept. 23, 2016
- Adult day centers. Alzheimer's Association. http://www.alz.org/care/alzheimers-dementia-adult-day-centers.asp. Accessed Sept. 9, 2016.
- Adult day care. Department of Health and Human Resources. http://www.eldercare.gov/ELDERCARE.NET/Public/Resources/Factsheets/Adult_Day_Care.aspx. Accessed Sept. 9, 2016.
- Eldercare Locator. Department of Health and Human Resources. http://www.eldercare.gov/Eldercare.NET/Public/Index.aspx. Accessed Sept. 9, 2016.
- Choosing care providers. Alzheimer's Association. http://www.alz.org/care/alzheimers-dementia-adult-day-centers.asp. Accessed Sept. 9, 2016.
- Choosing a center. National Adult Day Services Association. http://www.nadsa.org/consumers/choosing-a-center/. Accessed Sept. 9, 2016.
- Site visit checklist. National Adult Day Services Association. http://www.nadsa.org/consumers/site-visit-checklist/. Accessed Sept. 9, 2016.
- Graff-Radford J (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Sept. 9, 2016.